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George Ewart Evans

Voices of the Children

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“I hope you like it. Me, I loved it.”
- Gwyn Jones
The old valleys have got something flying about in them beside the coal dust.
Voices of the Children is a delicate and heart-felt story of the golden, ephemeral, uncertain world of childhood. Set in a rural mining village in South Wales in the years leading up to the Second World War, George Ewart Evans has recreated a magical but alive world that will resonate with our memories, real and imagined, of childhood.
The hills were freedom, and the valley was the shop, milking the cow, errands, difficult customers, and, last of all, the new baby.
About the author:
George Ewart Evans was born in 1909, in the mining village of Abercynon. He was one of a family of eleven children whose parents ran a grocer's shop- the setting of his semi-autobiographical novel Voices of the Children (1947). After education at Mountain Ash County School and University College Cardiff - where he read classics and trained as a teacher - he had ambitions of being a writer. He published verse and short stories- many with a Welsh background - in various literary journals, and extracts from Voices of the Children first appeared in The Welsh Review, in 1945.
In 1934 he became a teacher in Cambridgeshire, where he met his wife, Ellen. After his wartime RAF service, they settled permanently in East Anglia and raised four children. In 1948 he gave up teaching and turned from writing fiction to producing a sheaf of studies, now regarded as classics, based on conversations with his elderly East Anglian neighbours - farm workers and rural craftsmen - from whom he acquired a wealth of knowledge about their vanishing customs, work habits and superstitions. His Ask the Fellows who Cut the Hay (1956) marked him out as an original and sensitive interpreter of English rural life, and books like The Pattern Under the Plough (1966),Where Beards Wag All (1970), The Days That We Have Seen (1975), and From Mouths of Men (1976), in which he returned to the South Wales coalfield, established his reputation as a pioneer in the field of oral history.
He died in Brooke, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, in 1988.
Short extract:
I first met the writer of Voices of the Children through Doctor Thomas, our local GP, to whom George Ewart Evans dedicated his oral history of mining life, From Mouths of Men. It happened in a round about way. I was stuck in the house recovering from an accident at work; I was watching too much television and complaining about it too much to Peggy, my wife. She suggested, not so politely, that if I thought I could do better I should write something myself. So I did. A friend typed it and we sent it to the BBC and, lo and behold, I was invited up to London to ‘discuss your script’. Doctor Thomas was delighted- he always believed in keeping his patients active- but because I was still under his care he was also concerned. It was March 1963, the whole country was frozen solid and I was still in a pretty fragile state. I had lost an eye in the accident. But I went anyway. The man I had to see at the BBC was Harry Green, a well known television script writer, from Neath. He met me at the reception.